In this article you will learn the purpose of accounting and the different types of financial information.
We learned that accounting is the language of business; a means of communicating information about an economic entity to different users for decision-making.
An economic entity is a separately identifiable organization which makes use of resources to achieve its goals and objectives.
An economic entity may be a business entity operating primarily to generate profit, or a non-profit entity carrying out charitable and not-for-profit operations.
This means that a "business entity or business organization" refers to the for-profit type of economic entity. Some authors use "business entity" to refer to both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Nonetheless, all economic entities – whether business or non-profit – rely on accounting in processing and providing financial information.
The Purpose of Accounting
From the illustration presented, and for a straightforward answer, it is clear that the ultimate purpose of accounting is to provide information to different users. The users utilize the information in making economic decisions.
It can actually be depicted from some definitions made by accounting bodies. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA):
And then, we have another definition – one which has been in use for a long time already – by the American Accounting Association (AAA).
Both of the above definitions and the very nature of accounting suggest its basic purpose – to provide information needed by users in making economic decisions.
Here's a list of the different types of information provided by accounting reports. These things will be clearer when you get to the tutorials on Financial Statements. For now, it is sufficient (and good) to know what information we are talking about.
- Results of operations. This pertains to the profit generated by the company for a certain span of time (for a year, for a quarter, for a month, etc.). This is measured by deducting all expenses from all income. The resulting amount is called net income.
- Financial position. How much resources does the entity currently have? How much does the entity owe third parties? How much is left for the owners after we pay all obligations using our resources? The first question refers to the entity's total assets; the second to liabilities, and the third to capital.
- Solvency and liquidity. Solvency refers to the entity's ability to pay obligations when they become due. Liquidity pertains to its ability to meet short-term obligations.
- Cash flows. The financial statements also show the inflows and outflows of cash in the different activities of the business (operating, investing, and financing activities).
- Other information. The financial statements provide qualitative, quantitative, and financial information. One of the characteristics of the financial statements is relevance. Any information that could affect the decisions of users should be included in the financial reports.